22 March 2014

Annotated Game #119: A slashing victory in the English

This fourth-round tournament game was played against an obviously aggressive opponent.  As early as his second move (2...f5) it was clear that he would be looking for a kingside attack as soon as possible.  Although I was more cautious and solid, my focus on play in the center and on development gave me a good game without allowing my opponent any significant threats; he did miss the idea of playing ...Ne4 at some point, however, which would have given him better play.

The position around move 14 illustrates the importance of positional factors and ease of play, especially at the Class level.  White does not have a significant advantage, but the advantages he does have (the two bishops, open diagonals, more queenside space) make the game much easier to play.  All it takes for Black to lose is one bad idea - the slow transfer of his queen to the kingside - and White is able to shift to tactical play, taking advantage of Black's light-square weaknesses to slash open the position.  Black in response stakes everything on an unprepared kingside attack, which fizzles when I carefully calculate to a safe (and winning) position.

While my opening play here was not necessarily optimal, it got me to a comfortable middlegame position with latent threats and easy play.  After that, it was simply a matter of recognizing opportunities in the position and keeping mentally focused.  Overall, this was a good example of how your positional advantages can be turned into concrete ones, after your opponent ignores them and simply tries to execute his own plan.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class C"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A21"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "53"] {A1: English Opening: 1...e5 2 Nc3} 1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 f5 {an aggressive move by Black, although he can get away with it in the English. Perhaps it is better to be less committal this early, however, since White as of move 2 now knows what Black's overall strategy will be (kingside expansion/attack).} 3. e3 { this is a slower, more solid option for White.} (3. d4 {scores the best (over 60 percent in the database) and immediately attacks Black's central pawn duo. However, at this point in my career I didn't even consider transposing to a queen pawn opening in this manner.}) 3... Nf6 4. d4 Bb4 $146 {a novel and somewhat dubious gambit offer, although accepting it would not give White a major plus.} (4... e4 {is a standard idea to try and cramp White's game, being the most played option in this position.}) 5. Qb3 {the gambit is declined. The idea is to drive off or get rid of the Bb4 and also eye the a2-g8 diagonal. However, this is a rather committal move for the queen, which becomes vulnerable to harrassment.} (5. dxe5 Ne4 {I had seen this idea, reminiscent of the Budapest Defense, and was worried about the threat of a queen sortie to h4, although this in fact does not do anything useful for Black.} 6. Bd2 (6. Nge2 Qh4 7. g3 $16) 6... Nxc3 (6... Qh4 $4 {here even drops a piece to} 7. Nxe4) 7. Bxc3 Bxc3+ 8. bxc3) (5. Bd2 {is a simple and solid way to decline the pawn.}) 5... exd4 $11 {the best move for Black, breaking up White's center.} 6. Qxb4 dxc3 (6... Na6 {it seems better to harrass the queen and develop a piece rather than immediately allow her a good outpost on c3. The knight could then go to c5 later, the benefit of developing to a6 rather than c6.}) 7. Qxc3 { White now has a comfortable and easy position to play, with great diagonals available aimed at Black's kingside.} O-O 8. Bd3 d6 9. Nf3 (9. b3 {immediately would be more flexible, reserving placement of the knight.}) (9. Ne2 {would be a better square for the knight, as f4 looks like an excellent outpost.}) 9... Nc6 10. a3 (10. b4 {could also be played immediately.}) 10... a5 11. b3 { although Black stopped the b4 advance, White is still happy to get his bishop to b2 eventually.} Qe7 (11... Ne4 {is an idea for Black that would at least temporarily disrupt White's setup.}) 12. O-O Ne5 $6 {this results in White having additional pressure against Black's center and on the long diagonal. Again ...Ne4 was possible, as well as the simple developing move ...Bd7.} 13. Nxe5 dxe5 14. Bb2 {White's two bishops and the battery on the long diagonal look very nice.} Re8 15. b4 {White intends c5, perceptively notes Houdini via the Fritz interface.} b6 16. Rfd1 {an essential preparatory move, activating the rook.} Qf7 $6 {this exacerbates Black's vulnerability on the a2-g8 diagonal. Black intends to transfer his queen to the kingside, but this is too slow of a plan, given White's imminent threats.} (16... e4 17. Be2 Be6 $14) 17. c5 $16 {this point of this move is to open the c4 and b5 squares to possible occupation by the bishop. Tactics are now in the air, given Black's vulnerabilities and White's well-placed pieces.} Qh5 $2 (17... Kh8 $142 $14 { is the best option Black has, says Houdini.}) 18. Bb5 {and now Black's light-square weakness and lack of development is fatal for him, as White has too many active threats. Worth noting is the important role of the Rd1 in dominating the d-file.} Ne4 $2 {played after a good deal of thought, my opponent was evidently relying on his next move to put me away. While it doesn't work, it's at least a good practical try in a losing position.} (18... axb4 19. Qxb4 Bb7 (19... Rf8 20. cxb6 {with the threat of winning the Rf8 after Bc4+}) 20. Bxe8 Rxe8 $18) 19. Bxe8 {I spent enough time calculating here to make sure that this was safe.} Qe2 {played relatively quickly, indicating that my opponent had intended to reach this position.} 20. Qe1 {I had found this defense and thought it the only move for White. It is a sure win, although Houdini finds a more spectacular one by threatening mate in turn.} ( 20. Qxe5 Qxf2+ 21. Kh1 Qxb2 {necessary to stop the mate threats.} 22. Qxb2) 20... Qxb2 21. Bc6 {I had calculated this far on move 19, seeing that Black could not avoid the multiple threats to the Ra8 and Bc8, with Rd8+ availabile as a follow-up.} axb4 (21... Ra7 22. Bxe4 fxe4 23. Rd8+ Kf7 24. Rxc8) (21... Rb8 22. Rd8+ Kf7 23. cxb6 cxb6 24. Bxe4 fxe4 25. Qc1 $18) 22. Bxa8 Ba6 23. Bxe4 {this was focused on eliminating any possible counterplay by Black, who could now resign, although he plays on for a few more moves.} fxe4 24. axb4 Bd3 25. Qd2 Qb3 26. Qa2 Qxa2 27. Rxa2 1-0

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